A Night of Lights – Christmas and Aurora Borealis

Five weeks away from the blog feels like forever. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing, it’s just that there’s been little worthy of writing about. There’s very little snow, and we’ve had fairly warm temperatures and lots of cloud, so no aurora…

The forecast last night was for a strong aurora display but cloudy skies. Before going to bed, though, I noticed that even though the weather report said that the sky was cloudy, it was in fact completely clear, so I decided to head out on an aurora hunt.

It’s easier on Cathy if I leave as she’s going to bed rather than a couple of hours later, which is often closer to the start of a Northern Lights display. I hadn’t shot the Christmas lights around Whitehorse in many years, and they’re particularly good this year, so that would be a good way to kill time. Just after 10:00 pm, I made my first stop to get this shot of the SS Klondike.

SS Klondike with Christmas lights - Whitehorse, Yukon
I spent about 15 minutes at the boat, shooting from both viewing levels as seen in the photos below, then went across the road to Rotary Park, which although nicely lighted, didn’t result in any photos I was particularly happy with.

SS Klondike with Christmas lights - Whitehorse, Yukon

SS Klondike with Christmas lights - Whitehorse, Yukon
Main Street, very quiet at 10:45, was the next stop.

Main Street with Christmas lights - Whitehorse, Yukon
The huge Christmas tree at the historic White Pass & Yukon Route railway depot seems particularly impressive this year.

WP&YR depot with huge Christmas tree - Whitehorse, Yukon
I noticed this statue I hadn’t seen before beside the train station. I cropped out most of the half-built base, but when I was going through the photos this morning, it appears to be an important part of the piece, as it says “12 Days to End Violence Against Women 2015” – a short article about that program can be read on the CBC site here.

12 Days to End Violence Against Women 2015 - statue in Whitehorse, Yukon
The decorations on City Hall are, as always, some of the nicest.

Christmas lights on City Hall - Whitehorse, Yukon

Christmas lights on City Hall - Whitehorse, Yukon
The next major stop was Shipyards Park. This is the view south along Front Street (formerly First Avenue) from the park.

Christmas lights along Front Street, Whitehorse, Yukon
The thickest grouping of Christmas lights at Shipyards is across the street from Tim’s.

Christmas lights in front of Tim Horton's - Whitehorse, Yukon
At 11:20, an arc of aurora appeared, so I took a few final shots and drove a couple of miles to a new location overlooking the city.

Aurora borealis over Shipyards Park in Whitehorse

Aurora borealis over the Yukon River in downtown Whitehorse
The highest point on the Long Lake Road is one of my favourite shooting locations in the city. A slight widening of the road there allows for safe parking. This is the view to the south, over the Yukon River.

Whitehorse on a winter night, from the Long lake Road
Looking north, the view of the aurora borealis was good for a few minutes, then it very quickly faded.

Aurora borealis over Long Lake Road in Whitehorse

Northern Lights over Long Lake Road in Whitehorse, Yukon
I took a few photos of the city, including Shipyards Park as seen in the next photo, then made the fairly long drive out to Lake Laberge.

Christmas lights at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse, Yukon
I reached the Lake Laberge Campground just before 01:00. My hope had been that the aurora would return in a strong way, but that didn’t happen. The first photo was shot at ISO 1600 with a 30-second exposure, a sign of very weak lights.

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
A few minutes later I was able to drop the ISO to 800, but a 30-second exposure was still needed. This is a “selfie” – the light is from my headlamp.

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
The next photo is the same one as above, with some manipulation. The one above is what the scene actually looked like (very dark, with muted colours), while this one has been manipulated to look the way most people seem to like the aurora to look.

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
This is the strongest the aurora got, right at 01:00.

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
The next photo is basically the same as the one above, but shot a few seconds later with the light balance set to Tungsten Light, 3200K. As with the above manipulation, most people seem to like to think that the aurora looks like this 🙂

Aurora borealis over Lake Laberge, Yukon
I stayed at Lake Laberge for another couple of hours, but the aurora never returned, so at about 03:00 I started the drive home, and was in bed before 04:00. As I neared Whitehorse, a light snow began, and as I’m writing this just before noon, a light snow is again falling. Added to the thick hoar frost that was already on the trees, it’s really quite pretty.

Fresh snow on our property in Whitehorse, Yukon
Before signing off, I’d like to show you a bit more of what I’m up to. One of the big projects was posting 78 photos from a collection I bought a dozen years ago. The photos were shot and collected by a serviceman at Naval Air Station Kodiak in 1949-50. I’ve just begun the huge job of trying to caption as many of them as I can. You can see that album by clicking on the photo of the B-17 below.

B-17 at NAS Kodiak in 1950

Another project that I’ve finished scanning and am now putting online is a guide to Yukon airports from 1988. The binder in the photo below was one I built as my primary resource when flying my Cessna. It had full airport information for all airports in BC, the Yukon, and parts of the NWT and Alberta, cut out of the “Canada Flight Supplement”, a government publication that was updated a few times each year. I’m taking those pages and adding Google Earth images and my photos of the airports – you can see those starting here

Yukon airport guide, 1988


A Night of Lights – Christmas and Aurora Borealis — 6 Comments

  1. Great photos.
    I login daily to read your blog. It always breaks the monotony at work to read about your adventures while I am eating lunch.
    Hope you and your family have a great holiday.

    Joan B., Philadelphia, PA

  2. Welcome Back! I really enjoyed your tour through the city at night! It is so very pretty. Whenever I see your shots I always think of how very lucky you are to live where you do.

    • Thanks, Janet. I remind myself of that often. I may complain about how long our winters are, but the last couple of weeks have made me realize that I would miss it – these days are quite exhilarating. Merry Christmas 🙂